Do we have the right to be forgotten?

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Freedom of speech

Marketers spend their time trying to push brands up the search engine ladder to claim that lucrative top spot – let’s face it, when we scour the web for anything, our attention doesn’t last much longer than perusing the first page.

While most yearn for position number one, there are some who may want to bury those links that only serve to cast a shadow over their reputation. We all know that generating quality content and reciprocal links to sites rubber-stamped by Google can help to influence the rankings, but this can take time, resource and skill.

The question now on everyone’s lips is: what impact the so-called ‘right-to-be-forgotten’ judgement will have on people’s attempts to remove ‘irrelevant and outdated’ search results? The European Court of Justice has somewhat controversially ruled that search engines could be forced to remove links, with a politician, doctor and convicted pedophile already knocking at Google’s door.

Advocates of free speech have quickly jumped on their soap boxes to voice concerns over the EU move – and rightly so. Surely search engines and news outlets should be allowed to publish both positive and negative facts that counterbalance one another, rather than extinguishing less popular stories altogether.

Admittedly, this ruling only covers links to the information and not the source itself, but it’s safe to say that the ‘takedown’ floodgates will inevitably open and swamp the likes of Google and Yahoo at the same time – not to mention giving licence to those who may want to exploit the ruling and bury information which is deemed to be in the public domain.

Nobody likes bad press, but sometimes it can be justified, unavoidable, or unfortunate – the danger is once a crack in the door appears, it will only widen and potentially compromise freedom of speech and a whole lot more with it.